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Curr Probl Cardiol. 2008 Jul;33(7):326-408. doi: 10.1016/j.cpcardiol.2008.03.003.

Cardiac auscultation: rediscovering the lost art.


Cardiac auscultation, long considered the centerpiece of the cardiac clinical examination, is rapidly becoming a lost art. Inadequate emphasis on the essentials of cardiac auscultation has resulted from the widespread availability of more elaborate and expensive "high-tech" diagnostic and therapeutic methods, particularly Doppler echocardiography. However, sophisticated high technology is not a substitute for a solid foundation in clinical cardiology including cardiac auscultation. When used properly, the stethoscope remains a valuable and cost-effective clinical tool that often enables many well-trained and experienced cardiac auscultators to make a rapid and accurate cardiac diagnosis with fewer, if any, additional studies. Not every patient needs every test. Accordingly, this monograph reviews the fundamental principles of the art of cardiac auscultation. Emphasis is placed on the proper use of the stethoscope and the diagnostic and prognostic significance of the myriad heart sounds and murmurs present in patients with and without symptomatic heart disease. A practical clinical overview of the common auscultatory findings encountered in a variety of cardiac disease states and conditions will also be discussed. This monograph will inspire many practitioners to pick up their stethoscope, practice their cardiac examination, perfect their auscultatory skills, and reap the rewards of rediscovering this time-honored method of evaluating the cardiovascular system.

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